Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Blackouts and Other Crises Force T-U Staff to Scramble

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Blackouts and Other Crises Force T-U Staff to Scramble

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike Clark, Times-Union Reader Advocate

By 4:30 every afternoon, Times-Union editors have finished a major news meeting in which they have set plans for the following day's paper.

Not Monday. That's when the power went out in Duval and neighboring counties, plunging the newsroom in the dark, trapping a reporter in an elevator, starting an incredible series of events.

In fact, the last time Jacksonville was hit with blackouts of this magnitude was 25 years ago, 1977.

Nobody planned that day's events. It started at the Times-Union with a meeting of Metro section editors, along with photo and graphic editors about 9:30 a.m.

Then at 10 a.m., the top newsroom editors met to discuss the major stories for the next day.

This meeting is designed to achieve several goals:

1. Plan the top stories and photos for the front page. Are all the elements ready to go, such as charts and graphics? If not, is there a backup plan?

2. Look for chances for different sections, such as Business and Sports, to pool resources or at least avoid two reporters working on the same story.

3. Help photo and graphics set priorities.

4. Finally, the editors critique that day's paper, mentioning hits and misses. It gives me a chance to share important reader comments from that morning.

You can't produce a consistently good newspaper without a great deal of planning. And you can't operate on an emergency basis every day. Planning is even under way for city elections next year and for the Super Bowl in 2005.

Once in a while, all the planning goes out the window and the adrenaline kicks in. The power outage last Monday forced the newsroom staff to scramble. One reporter even plugged his laptop into his car's cigarette lighter, typing under streetlights.

It was journalists at their best -- cutting and pasting, bobbing and weaving, e-mailing stories to St. Augustine and back again -- and producing a daily miracle that, incredibly, was free of many mistakes. …

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